Author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both published by Story Line Press. Other poems in print and online journals. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.
The bisected neighborhood
lives the way a poplar, half cut down,
extrudes barkless boughs and giant
leaves that fall in any wind.
Green, blue, and grey
missions, their sidewalks vacant
at noon, look bruised
where graffiti has been removed.
Few homeless beg
on the boulevard; they station
themselves on the ramp to
the new Home Depot.
(Suburbanites who come for plants
or boards or drills walk to and fro
in the vast aisles with the same
focus as at a gun show.)
Then a street just past
the parking lot ends at the soundwall
of the highway. Which produces
something, not quiet.
four long-unpainted wooden
buildings, a woman
pushing a stroller and leading a little girl
towards one. The woman
walks oddly; the girl
holding her hand is wearing a bright
Blow This Pop Stand
Their patience surprised me. I’d thought,
if they ever came, it would all be GO GO GO –
the usual mechanized hysterics
benefiting me). I’d have to leave
my few books, faded letters
and photos. But they asked
what I “needed” to take. Had brought black,
bulletproof clothes. Though it was gratifying
how, as I changed, the fallen
guards outside my cell dissolved
into unmourned dust or pixels,
I was almost disappointed,
not having to run
through smoke, explosions, curses,
being barked at to keep up,
or, more humiliating, helped along.
They said it wasn’t speed, however,
that mattered, only “staying off the radar” –
I knew about that – and keeping quiet.
I knew about that. There was even a tunnel,
which I hadn’t dug. They had.
As, firmly, we descended
I wondered if and to what extent
they resembled my first gang,
made out of comic books, multiple Saturday-
matinee movies, the random
that became the Fortress of Solitude.
Ahead lay safety, resupply,
vengeance, perhaps rest.
Bulbs hung from the ceiling
unswayed, as we passed
beneath the prison and the city,
by the sinkholes, snarled traffic, raging
jackhammers of maturity.
©2014 Frederick Pollack